The formula might be quiche and cake, or tartines (bread with various toppings) and tart, or, in the Breton style, they might be crêperies, but whatever the model, the same principle applies: you compose a light meal by choosing a savoury option, followed by a sweet one.
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Such establishments are not the domain of professional chefs but home cooks, mainly women, so they have a bijou, homespun appeal, and are often only open in the daytime. The menu is usually small, consisting of what has been made that morning or what can be made on the spot.
One such venture has popped up in Edinburgh. Describing itself as a French crêperie and tearoom, it is as if Marie Delice had been uprooted from Dinan or Cancale, and dropped down lock, stock and barrel in one of the Scottish capital's leafier arrondissements. A large shop unit has been refitted to look suitably "ringard" - that is, old-fashioned in a distinctly girly way, as if Cath Kidston's French cousin had done it up, all in sugared almond and macaroon tones.
The eponymous proprietrix, Marie-Claire Lafont, who greets customers with a charming and engaging enthusiasm, might easily have been cast in place of Juliette Binoche in the film Chocolat. She has those big brown eyes, and that glowing Gallic wellbeing showcased by models who grace the covers of health magazines like Top Santé. She also has the figure to match, comforting evidence that presiding over what is, at the end of the day, a carb fest, needn't automatically swell the waistline. There was surely never a better ambassadress for the proposition that French Women Don't Get Fat.
Marie Delice is not the usual Franglais folie, but a serious homage to Brittany. Marie makes explicit that she feels most comfortable with family companies that still work in an artisanal way, perpetuating tradition. The dark buckwheat flour for her savoury galettes au sarrasin is no industrial compromise, but the authentic small-scale article that comes from the third generation, family-run, Le Moulin de L'Ecluse in the small town of Pont L'Abbe. The customary dry, slightly smoky cider that is drunk with the buckwheat galettes in the characteristic Breton bowl-shaped cup (la bolée), is another small production, hand-crafted job, sourced from Kerne, the oldest cider makers in the Finistere orchard area. The crockery from which you eat is hand-made and hand-painted with perkily updated images of traditional Breton costumes, delightfully executed by Ceramiques de Cornouaille in Quimper. Its motto is "innovation in the service of tradition". You can see where Ms Lafont is coming from.
There is a compact tidiness to the way the buckwheat galettes are served, the curved sides folded in envelope style to make a neat square with a "window" in the middle to show off the filling. The first had slices of creamy warm goat's cheese under rivulets of honey and a generous crown of walnut halves, freshened up with a fistful of spinach leaves. The second parcelled up thin slices of cooked ham and bubbling cheese with an egg, sunnyside up, at its centre. The galettes themselves were great advocates for their genre, soft and yielding in parts, crisp and taut at the extremities, made more exotic by the smoky whiff of the buckwheat.
Sweet crêpes are never, in my opinion, anywhere near as interesting as buckwheat ones, but I enjoyed Ms Lafont's much more than most, not only because they had exactly the right ratio of crêpe to filling, but also because those fillings were so well judged. First up, one with apple compote and salted caramel sauce, an effortlessly Breton twinning, then another doused with honey and flaked almonds to make a texture as pleasing as its taste. The sweet crêpes come with formidable, vanilla-scented creme Chantilly, thicker perhaps than is customary in France (probably because our cream is richer than French whipping cream).
And heavens, there are also beautiful home-baked cakes, such as upside down caramelised pear sponge, served Asterix-scale as an assiete gourmande, or in still-generous dimensions as "un petit en-cas". As they say in France, "Quelle tentation" - what a temptation!